The recent announcements of the QUAD and AUKUS alliances by the United States and its allies have raised concerns in China about a potential encirclement strategy aimed at containing its rise. While the QUAD alliance, which includes the United States, Japan, India, and Australia, was established in 2007 to promote regional security and economic cooperation, the recent AUKUS agreement between the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia to share nuclear submarine technology has added a new dimension to the strategic landscape in the Indo-Pacific.
China has reacted strongly to these developments, with state media and officials criticizing the alliances as a Cold War-style containment strategy aimed at undermining China’s rise. In response, China has sought to strengthen its strategic partnerships with countries like Russia and Pakistan and has increased its military presence in the South China Sea. However, there is a range of other options available to China as it seeks to respond to these challenges.
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Understanding the matter better
One possible response for China is to continue to build closer ties with other countries in the region, including those outside of the QUAD and AUKUS alliances. For example, China has been working to deepen its economic and diplomatic ties with Southeast Asian countries and has been investing heavily in infrastructure projects through its Belt and Road Initiative. By strengthening these ties, China could potentially reduce its reliance on the United States and its allies and increase its leverage in the region.
Another potential response for China is to increase its military capabilities, including by investing in new technologies like hypersonic weapons and cyber capabilities. China has been investing heavily in its military over the past few decades and has developed a range of advanced weapons systems that could potentially pose a threat to US forces in the region. By continuing to invest in these capabilities, China could deter potential adversaries and increase its ability to respond to any potential military threats.
China could also seek to use economic pressure as a response to the QUAD and AUKUS alliances. For example, China could try to reduce its dependence on imports from countries that are part of these alliances or could use its economic clout to pressure other countries in the region to distance themselves from these alliances. This could include increased investment in emerging markets or the creation of new trade partnerships that are less reliant on the United States and its allies. For example, China has used economic coercion against countries such as Australia in response to political tensions between the two countries. By imposing economic sanctions or restrictions on imports, China can demonstrate its economic power and influence.
Interestingly, China can seek to promote its economic model, which is characterized by a strong role for the state in guiding economic development and a focus on domestic consumption and innovation. By demonstrating the success of this model and promoting it as an alternative to the liberal international order, China can challenge the dominance of the US and its allies in shaping global economic policies. This has been a part of China’s foreign policy and the US has been particularly concerned with this “revisionist” notion of China’s rise as a global power. The United States has failed to integrate China substantially into the American-led world order. So it is pertinent to note that China might go on with building a parallel international economic order.
In addition to these strategies, China could also seek to use soft power to counter the influence of the QUAD and AUKUS alliances. This could involve increased cultural and educational exchanges with other countries in the region, or the promotion of its own vision of a new economic and security order that is more reflective of the interests of emerging powers like itself.
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By doing so, China could potentially reduce the influence of the United States and its allies in the region and increase its own strategic leverage. Chinese soft power projection has been comparatively weak and lags behind American soft power projection by miles. However, with its global eminence evident, China will certainly devise much better strategies to instrumentalize cultural and educational incentives to win allies.
The way forward
There are also potential risks and challenges associated with each of these responses. For example, increasing military capabilities could potentially escalate tensions with the United States and its allies, while using economic pressure could potentially harm China’s own economic growth and stability. Similarly, relying on soft power could be limited by the fact that many countries in the region have historical and cultural ties to the United States and its allies, and may be hesitant to fully embrace China’s vision of a new world order.
Furthermore, China must also navigate its own internal challenges, including rising debt levels, slowing population growth, and increasing social unrest. While China’s economic and military power has grown rapidly over the past few decades, these challenges could potentially limit its ability to respond to external pressures and maintain its own stability.
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QUAD and AUKUS alliances represent a significant challenge to China’s rise and its efforts to establish a new economic and security order in the region. China, as the determinant of the new world order, cannot tolerate its encirclement and has conveyed its serious grievances over the issue. China has both the potential and intent to be a superpower. So, it will certainly have to deal with possible encirclement as a result of these alliances in the Indo-Pacific. While China has a range of options available to it as it seeks to respond to these challenges, each strategy comes with its own costs and China will need to seriously consider this fact to avoid pyrrhic victories.
The writer is working as a Research Officer at CISS AJK. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.